How True Superhero Marcus Rashford Became the Leader of the Opposition

Britain soccer players are generally not considered to be the most socially aware individuals, so when a young striker started speaking out about food poverty at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many observers were surprised. Some observers even set out to mock what they assumed to be a naive and pampered sportstar who couldn’t possibly understand the issues he was campaigning on, but they were swiftly put in their place by the young star’s remarkable eloquence, empathy and intelligence, as he set about holding the powerful to account. Now nobody doubts Marcus Rashford’s credentials, thanks to his remarkable and highly effective campaigning,  and his extraordinary generous charitable donations which have seen him confirmed as Britain’s most charitable individual. 

How True Superhero Marcus Rashford Became the Leader of the Opposition

MAKING ENDS MEET

Rashford was born in 1997 in Manchester, England, one of five children raised by his single mother, Melanie. Although Melanie was working full-time, she was often unable to make ends meet and would frequently forgo meals herself in order to ensure that her children were properly fed.  As she later told the BBC: "I had three jobs and if I didn't do that we wouldn't have been able to cook a pot of food ... Sometimes it was really bad, I'd rather give the food to the kids than give it to myself, sometimes I didn't get anything to eat. Sometimes we didn't even have a loaf of bread in the house. It's embarrassing to say but we didn't.”

How True Superhero Marcus Rashford Became the Leader of the Opposition

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Britain soccer players are generally not considered to be the most socially aware individuals, so when a young striker started speaking out about food poverty at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many observers were surprised. Some observers even set out to mock what they assumed to be a naive and pampered sportstar who couldn’t possibly understand the issues he was campaigning on, but they were swiftly put in their place by the young star’s remarkable eloquence, empathy and intelligence, as he set about holding the powerful to account. Now nobody doubts Marcus Rashford’s credentials, thanks to his remarkable and highly effective campaigning,  and his extraordinary generous charitable donations which have seen him confirmed as Britain’s most charitable individual. 

How True Superhero Marcus Rashford Became the Leader of the Opposition

MAKING ENDS MEET

Rashford was born in 1997 in Manchester, England, one of five children raised by his single mother, Melanie. Although Melanie was working full-time, she was often unable to make ends meet and would frequently forgo meals herself in order to ensure that her children were properly fed.  As she later told the BBC: "I had three jobs and if I didn't do that we wouldn't have been able to cook a pot of food ... Sometimes it was really bad, I'd rather give the food to the kids than give it to myself, sometimes I didn't get anything to eat. Sometimes we didn't even have a loaf of bread in the house. It's embarrassing to say but we didn't.”

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Marcus was surrounded by poverty growing up, and his elementary school had more than twice the national average of children claiming free school meals, which in the UK are only available to kids whose families receive welfare payments. Fortunately for the Rashfords, Marcus was a remarkably gifted footballer who attracted interest from top-flight football scouts from an early age. Although he spent a week training with Manchester City when he was seven years old, it was their bitter rivals, Manchester United, who secured Marcus’s signature and put him on the path to soccer stardom. This added additional pressure on Melanie to ensure her young starlet received proper nutrition, and by the time Marcus was 11, Melanie approached the club to request that they take her son into their residential training program a year early. The club had previously only admitted players aged 12 and above, but made an exception for Marcus. This was an enormous help to Melanie, as the academy provided a carefully calibrated diet for its young charges, easing the burden at home. It also placed Marcus at the center of one of Europe’s most prestigious and successful soccer clubs. 

Marcus as a young boy at Manchester United's academy

THE PHENOMENON

Marcus was already viewed as a talented prospect, but his early inclusion in a group of older players accelerated his development. He immediately found himself training with players four years older than him - including future World Cup winner Paul Pogba - and his game improved dramatically as a result. By the time he was 16 he was training with the first team squad, and he made his senior debut for Manchester United in 2016 in a Europa League fixture against the Danish team Midjtylland, aged just 19. He scored twice in a 5-1 win, becoming Manchester United’s youngest ever goalscorer in European competitions in  the process, beating a record previously held by George Best. Three days later he made his Premier League debut against substantially stronger opposition in the form of Arsenal, and again scored twice, this time in a 3-2 victory. 

As a child, Marcus had originally been a goalkeeper, but gravitated further forward as his tremendous pace became apparent.  Although his debut demonstrated his proficiency in front of goal there has always been debate about where his talents are best utilized, with many coaches preferring to exploit his blistering pace on the wings rather than through the middle. He’s a goal threat wherever he plays, something that was best demonstrated in the 2019/20 season, where he hit 17 league goals in just 2655 minutes on the pitch. Sadly, that season was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, but these gave Marcus an opportunity to showcase a more Superheroic side to his game. 

THE SUPERHERO ACTIVIST

Marcus had already started participating in local charitable causes when the pandemic hit. With Britain in lockdown and the football season suspended, he was now free to concentrate on activism and tackle the problems that had beset his own childhood. This began with a collaboration with the charity FairShare, looking to distribute food to families whose children would ordinarily be receiving free school meals if they were able to attend school. The initiative was originally intended to only support children in the Manchester area, but the response to the campaign - and Rashford’s heartfelt pleas for donations - meant that the project was able to support children nationwide, with 4 million meals distributed by July of 2020. Rashford’s drive and enthusiasm amazed the staff at FairShare, with the charity’s CEO, Lindsay Boswell, saying of him: “In some charities, a celebrity might be there just to give some oxygen to a campaign. In this instance, though, we were all hanging on to Marcus’s coattails trying to keep up with him.” 

How True Superhero Marcus Rashford Became the Leader of the Opposition
Marcus pitching in with the FairShare food distribution initiative

Marcus was only just getting started, and beginning to set his sights higher. In June of 2020 he wrote an open letter to the UK Government calling on them to end child poverty. The subject of food poverty was a contentious issue in British politics at the time, but with the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic few politicians were willing to take a public stand on the matter. Parliamentary debates on the provision of free school meals to pupils had been rumbling on for months with little effect, but Rashford’s public intervention immediately changed the discussion. The following morning, Government spokespeople stated that there would be no change to policy, which caused a substantial backlash in the media and in Westminster. By the evening the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was forced to announce a change to the policy, committing to providing meals vouchers for 1.5 million children during the summer recess. Rashford had succeeded where everyone else - including Britain’s opposition parties - had failed, and was showered with plaudits from fans, commentators and the media, with the Guardian describing his campaign as a “political masterclass” and supporters giving him a new nickname of Leader Of The Opposition. 

THE SUPERHERO PHILANTHROPIST

These actions also drew a great deal of criticism from right wing commentators who opposed free school meals. Marcus was publicly attacked by Government politicians and affiliated media figures, who questioned how Rashford could make demands of others for support while earning an elite Premier League salary. Marcus ignored these attacks and continued with his campaigning, securing more commitments for food vouchers from politicians and raising millions more through public appeals over Twitter throughout the duration of the pandemic lockdown. Throughout this period he was also quietly making donations himself to fund food relief initiatives, something which was only revealed when the Sunday Times newspaper published its annual Giving List for 2021, a ranking of the country’s most generous philanthropists. This showed that Marcus had made charitable donations totalling over $24m over the calendar year, considerably more than the $20m he earned in salary and endorsements. Although his total contribution was not as large as some, the list is ranked by the proportion of income donated and with donations totalling 125% of his income Marcus comfortably outstripped his nearest competition. He had officially become the most generous man in Britain, and accusations of hypocrisy and virtue-signaling swiftly disappeared.  

This is typical of Marcus, whose total commitment to his beliefs is apparent for all to see. He’s a leader by example on the pitch and off it, and his single-minded pursuit of a fairer society for those less fortunate than himself is remarkable. He hasn’t just become the most successful activist in sports, he’s arguably now the loudest voice calling for change in British society, a leader of the Opposition in more ways than one, and undeniably a True Superhero to boot. 

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